As mentioned before in these pages, England’s Pulp Press is one of the most exciting imprints to come out of indie publishing in the last couple years. What follows is a look at three more of what has been a very busy 2010 release schedule for them. All three are pocket-sized little blasts of mayhem that feature the trademark Pulp Press “vintage” look and feel, and the tagline “Turn off your TV and discover fiction like it used to be…” Indeed!
Die Hard Mod by Charlie McQuaker
Steve Milliken is rudely awakened from a pleasant dream of the best shag he ever had by a pounding on the front door of his drab North Belfast flat. He answers the door and is promptly greeted by a thorough ass kicking at the fists and feet of Trevor, the local drug dealer (and UDA battalion leader), and his hardman henchman, Donzo. Seems Steve and his housemate Doug had run afoul of the two toughguys previously on account of selling some extra hash to a couple students-in-need at a house party. After the ass beating and healthy dose of intimidation, Steve comes to in his trashed apartment, with much of his record collection and mod memorabilia destroyed. Worse, he learns later that Doug was also beaten . . . to death. Realizing that Trevor and his crew will likely come after him again to keep him quiet, Steve decides to take off to Brighton to hide out. Brighton also happens to be the last known lurking place of the girl he’d spent a passionate previous summer with, Jeanie. As can be expected from any pulp story worth its salt, things go from bad to worse, and there’s no counting on anything ever getting better for our hero, Charlie.
I enjoyed several things about this novel. First, the dialect and slang used by the characters was fun, lending a real sense of accent, place and personality to the dialogue. Second, I had a great time with all the mod culture references; the fashion, bands, particular songs, and the rivalries among fans of different scenes. Music has always been tied to fashion, no doubt about it, and this book doesn’t miss that critical fact at any moment. Die Hard Mod is also a telling glimpse into the English mod scene and Brighton club environment. These settings are depicted well, and I could almost hear the music, smell the alcohol and see people shaking their asses out on the dance floor. Clearly author Charlie McQuaker knows his way around this stuff, and while I’m no mod myself it certainly had me revisiting my own collection of music by bands like The Small Faces.
As for the rest of the story, I’ve said enough already. Will Charlie stay a step ahead of Trevor and company? Will he be reunited with his beloved Jeanie? Will he ever find a way to avenge Doug’s brutal death? Or will he just continued to be fucked with time and again? To answer any of these questions will only spoil the suspense of this short little book, and we can’t have that now, can we? Buy it, and find out for yourself!
My Bloody Alibi by Dominic Milne
My Bloody Alibi is a classic tale of revenge hatched behind bars. In a prison for women, no less. If that doesn’t scream “Pulp!” I don’t know what does.
Cass Hall and “Mad” Marcella Gray met while doing time in Holloway Women’s Prison. On meeting, they realized that, with proper makeup, they bore a striking resemblance to one another that bordered on the eerie. Becoming friends, they masterminded a plan to get even with the bastards whose actions had landed them behind bars in the first place – a scumbag, crooked policeman/rapist named Jack Thorne in Cass’s case, and for Marcella a notorious drug dealer and human trafficker named Barry Leonard. Together they create the seductress Sylvana, a smoking hot, high-stepping dancer whose identity they will share in the plot to lure the two men to their gruesome ends. The scheme gets rolling well enough, but we know nothing ever goes as planned.
With a trilogy of detective novels waiting in the wings for publication, writer/actor Dominic Milne draws plenty of first novel blood via My Bloody Alibi. The plot twists and turns, and Milne throws enough unanticipated difficulty at our vengeful heroines to keep things interesting without getting frustrating. Run-ins with racist gangs, best plans gone awry, and even a potential love interest keep things hauling ass to the fiery end. The opening scene, with the two women’s plan already in motion and coming off the rails, sets the stage in perfect, violent fashion. It is almost impossible to set the book down until the last bullet has been fired, the last drop of gasoline splashed onto a flaming Soho, the last spike heel delivered in a kick to the face. Even better, the ending hints that we might be able to expect more from Milne and these memorable characters. Here’s hoping for that!
Let Me Die a Woman by Alan Kelly
Wow. Right out of the gate Alan Kelly’s Let Me Die a Woman showed it was something totally different from any other current offerings from Pulp Press, and it kicked my ass in altogether different ways.
The book opens with twenty-three year-old Jessica Spark, who has about as awful an attitude as you can imagine, preparing to accompany her mother to the benign little country “Scarecrow Festival” in Roundwood. She’s not happy about it, and she makes various little passive aggressive moves just to irritate her mother, both before they leave and on the drive out to rural paradise. At the festival, Jessica has a run-in with some other women that leads to fisticuffs. Later, she finds herself cornered by the women, things not looking good . . . when the scarecrows at the festival come alive and proceed to gruesomely butcher anything that moves. Jessica alone survives, but she is taken captive and turned into . . . something else.
Let Me Die a Woman is a gory little B-Movie horror romp complete with alien creatures with tentacles, weird little horrid henchcreatures, and lots of blood and murder. Jessica resurfaces at the helm of a quasi-feminist horror magazine called Blood Rag. She’s risen to the top at the expense of the woman most responsible for the magazine’s success, Bunny Flask . . . and Bunny ain’t happy about it. When she decides to take her violent revenge, aided by her friend Kiffany, Bunny stumbles onto a plot that leaves the fate of the entire world at risk. That’s big time, baby. That’s fucking pulp awesomeness.
There are two many little twists in the plot to talk about without ruining the reading experience, particularly in a big reveal that has direct ties to the title, and makes the book even more cool. I haven’t read a lot of this kind of horror stuff – Lovecraft notwithstanding – but I sure loved it, and it makes me want to seek out more. Alan Kelly really cranked out something that, to me anyway, was very original and a nice change of pace in the Pulp Press lineup. I hope they publish more stuff like this, and I’m looking forward to more from Alan Kelly in particular!
For people interested in buying Pulp Press titles, you may visit their Amazon UK store HERE. American distribution is being handled by Murder By the Book in Houston, TX, who offer a fantastic mail order option. Fans of quick, exciting reads that capture the look and feel of an era of fiction long past should make all kinds of haste to pick these titles up.